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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was founded on the principle that weak could defeat the strong by using leverage and superior technique. Today BJJ is one of the most popular forms of martial arts worldwide.
As the sport grows more popular, it occasionally catches the eye of those past their prime, wondering if it’s too late for them to get in on the action.
If you’re over thirty, is BJJ an option for you?
Is it possible to start training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu when you’re over thirty? Yes. Lots of people start BJJ later in life. The key to being successful in BJJ at a later age is to take the training at your own pace and be careful of expecting too much of yourself. Ego and overwork can get you frustrated or injured. Give yourself time to learn and improve in the sport before you start comparing yourself to others.
So, if you’re pressing forward to begin training in BJJ past the age of thirty, what do you need to know?
First, we’ll discuss some of the ways to approach BJJ as a thirty-something.
Then, we’ll go over some of the pitfalls to watch out for.
Finally, we’re going to cover why you’d want to get involved in the first place.
Listen up; this is advice you can take to the mat.
How to Approach BJJ at 30+
While it is totally doable, there are some things that you may want to approach differently than the young bucks. Some of these are practical, tactile ways to approach the process of training at an older age.
However, most are mental. You aren’t as young as you used to be, and you’ll need to think about physical training and starting something new differently. This is especially true if you’re a bit out of shape.
If you’re overweight and out of shape, you need to be careful with how quickly you push yourself.
Going too hard to fast is likely to get you injured or feeling so awful that you never want to come back.
Take it slow, start with the basics and step out to catch your breath if you need to.
There’s no shame in taking things at your own pace. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your strength, endurance, and technique improve.
Before you know it, you’ll be keeping up with everyone else. Just give yourself time to get there.
Forget About the Past
It doesn’t matter if you were the star quarterback of your high school football team or the captain of your collegiate volleyball squad.
When you enter the a Jiu Jitsu gym, you’re nobody. Even if you’re in great shape and a gym rat or avid basketball player, none of those skills or that strength will translate to BJJ.
You’ll get tossed around by people half your size. You need to let go of how good you think you are (or were) if you want any chance of succeeding.
The same implies in reverse if you were never a top-level athlete. Maybe BJJ is your first experience with physical training of any kind. Doesn’t matter. You’ll start from the bottom just like everyone else and work your way up with practice and hard work.
Have Nothing to Prove
Your motivations for hitting the mats are going to be your own.
However, if you feel the need to prove yourself and get your ego wrapped up in things, you’re likely to wind up having a harder time or even getting hurt.
Learn to tap out early. Losing to more experienced fighters is a part of the process. It’s how you learn. If you go into every bout, thinking, “I can’t let myself lose.” You’re going to wind up hurting.
Tap out, evaluate, get up, and go again. Check your ego at the door.
Technique is More Important than Fitness
You can’t brute force your way through BJJ. On the one hand, this can be a difficult mental hurdle to get over.
You need to change how you think about fighting to be successful. Out think and outmaneuver your opponents rather than trying to be stronger than them.
On the other hand, this means that you’ve got a much more level playing field if you’re trying to get back in shape.
Through hard work and dedication, you can become quite skilled at the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu even if you’re not in top physical form. Technique is everything.
When you first start learning BJJ, expect to get tossed around like a rag doll over and over again. You’re going to get beat up by people who are older than you, younger than you, smaller than you.
It’s part of the process. Eventually, you’ll get better and be able to hold your own. But you need to learn to check your ego at the door.
You also need to realize that inside a Jiu Jitsu gym, everyone is an equal. It doesn’t matter who you are outside the gym—boss at work, strongest guy at your gym, arm wrestling champion—you’re just another student there.
If you can’t accept that you’ll be starting from the bottom of the totem pole, then Brazilian Jiu Jitsu might not be for you.
Manage Your Expectations
Before you begin, it’s important to define your goals. What are you trying to get out of the experience?
Maybe you’re trying to lose a certain amount of weight, be active for a certain number of hours each week, achieve a certain ranking. If you go in expecting to be the very best, you’re going to be frustrated and upset.
You aren’t going to be the next world champ, it just isn’t in the cards for you; well maybe at Masters if you train hard enough.
You’re starting too late in the game. You can have a great time training. You can get into the best shape of your life. You can be competitive in tournaments.
There’s a lot to gain from practicing BJJ. Just makes sure that you’re focusing on the right aspects.
You’re going to be in pain. It’s just a fact. Even when taking it slow and pacing yourself, you’re going to experience some discomfort.
If you can accept this right out of the gate, you’ll be much better off. You’re going to have a great time, and your body is going to become more able to handle the stress of training, but pain is part of the process.
Things to be Careful of
It’s important to realize your limitations as you start a physically demanding sport like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Especially beginning at an older age, there are certain things you’ll really want to watch out for.
Treat your body right. If you wind up injured, you won’t be able to train anyhow.
Don’t Overdo it
The worst thing you can do when you’re starting out is to push yourself too hard.
Take time to recover and get your breath back between sparring sessions. Get some water, do some stretching, and make sure you’re ready to go before you roll again.
You also need to be cautious during sparring sessions. If you start to feel, your legs getting tired, ease up a little.
You don’t need to go full out trying to get the takedown every time. Focus on your overall progression, not necessarily on the bout in front of you.
Lastly, take plenty of time to rest between visits to the dojo. You’ll want to start at about once a week.
As you get more comfortable during the sessions and have a shorter recovery time afterward, you can add a session. Eventually, you’ll want to work your way up to around two to four sessions per week.
For most BJJ fighters thirty or older, attending sessions more regularly than three times a week just isn’t practical. Odds are that you have more serious family and/or career obligations than people in their early twenties.
Don’t feel like just because you’ve picked up a new hobby that it now has to dominate your life. It doesn’t. Find a rhythm that works for your lifestyle and is sustainable.
Lose Your Ego
We can’t overstate it enough: your ego is the most dangerous thing you will encounter on the mat.
Getting in your head that you can’t lose or that you have to prove how hard you can go will prevent you from improving and get you injured.
There’s no need to show how tough you are. Learn to prove your worth by being humble, dedicated, and hardworking.
You’ll earn respect a lot faster this way than by winning a few sparring matches.
If you’re wrapped up, caught out, pinned down—tap out. Trying to muscle your way through a sticky situation is likely not going to go well for you, especially if you’re new to the sport.
Tap out, reset, and avoid getting into that situation the next time.
Pushing on when you should tap is more likely to end up in an injury. You’re also just likely to learn less overall.
You’ll spend more time in a hairy situation rather than using the time and energy to spar where you actually have a chance.
How to Stay Healthy and Avoid Injury
If you’re just starting BJJ at thirty years old, you’re likely to be pushing your body harder than you have in some time.
Because of this, you’re going to want to take extra precautions to ensure that you stay in top physical form and avoid any kind of injury.
The overarching philosophy is to just treat your body right. Let BJJ be the catalyst to transforming your health and fitness in all areas of your life.
Check out our post on The Most Common Injuries in BJJ
BJJ is a sport that requires a great deal of flexibility and will frequently cause you to contort your body into strange positions.
Being flexible and limber will help you perform better and drastically decrease your odds of pulling or straining something. A good stretch before and after will even help prevent sore limbs and stiff joints.
Making stretching a regular part of your routine will keep you healthier and also improve your performance.
The more flexible you are, the more range you’ll have while rolling. As you repeatedly stretch, you’ll increase your flexibility. This is just another way you can use BJJ to better yourself and improve your body.
Rest When You Need It
If your heart rate is high, your breathing ragged, or your muscles sore—it may be time to take a breather.
There’s no shame in taking five to catch your breath and grab a drink of water. You’ll perform a lot better if you keep yourself at your best.
As you learn the techniques and build new muscles, you’re going to break your body down. It’s important to know how to encourage your body to heal properly and maintain a good level of physical health.
Here are a few techniques you can use to keep yourself ready to hit the mat.
Deep Tissue Massages
Lots of older BJJ practitioners find that they experience tightness and soreness after training. This is especially bad in the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
Getting a professional deep tissue massage can help relieve soreness, relax muscles, and relieve stress. You’ll feel great afterwards, and you’ll be loose and mobile the next time you get to the dojo.
If you can’t afford or don’t have access to a professional masseuse, an amateur massage can be almost as good. Get some cheap massage oil and a willing partner, and you can really loosen things up.
You can even encourage your massage partner to take their skills to the next level by watching a few instructional videos or tutorials.
No matter how you go about it, getting a deep tissue massage can be a great way to stay limber and healthy.
Keep in mind that a massage will not fix damaged muscle, stressed joints, or other injuries. This is a preventative measure. Still, it can be quite effective at keeping you in tip-top shape.
Deep tissue massages are fantastic, but they can get spendy, and you’re never going to get quite the same effect if you aren’t going to a licensed therapist.
A foam roller is an easy way to get some of the benefits on a more regular basis.
Using a foam roller will help relieve tension in muscles and trigger points. This can also release built-up lactic acid and increase blood flow.
All these things will help your muscles relax, and your body recover. If you can help your body recover faster, you’ll be able to train harder and improve more quickly.
Practicing yoga can improve your BJJ grappling in a number of ways and also keep you healthier at the same time.
Yoga will help increase your flexibility, balance, strength, and fine motor control. Many top BJJ grapplers use yoga to improve themselves and become better at Jiu Jitsu.
Yoga will also give you a way to train your body that’s going to be less grueling than grappling in the gym. Say you’ve worked up to two days of training a week and would like to add a third but are cautious about the toll on your body.
Make one of those days a yoga day. You can use this low-impact exercise regimen to increase some core abilities for BJJ without putting additional strain on yourself.
This may seem like basic advice, but a regular good night’s rest is crucial for your body to be able to function at its best. You want to get seven to eight hours per day.
If you’re burning the midnight oil, you can’t expect your body to perform in practice the next day.
Sleeping well will help you have more strength, flexibility, and energy while grappling. You’re less likely to get injured. You’re more likely to think clearly and be able to engage in the strategic thinking necessary for the mental element of BJJ.
Getting plenty of rest will keep you in a better mood, and you’ll be more enthusiastic about training.
Again, it feels basic, but you are what you eat. A clean, healthy diet is crucial to allow your body to recover properly and perform admirably.
Fruits, vegetables, and protein are all important elements in ensuring that your body has the resources and nutrients it needs to put you back together again and keep you running smoothly.
You don’t need to change your entire life just because you decided to step into a Jiu Jitsu school. It’s best to make changes incrementally if anything’s going to stick.
Make changes to your lifestyle slowly and let yourself get used to each change before you move onto the next.
As you get more and more involved in BJJ, you’ll find yourself more and more compelled to improve yourself and your lifestyle. As you make changes and improve yourself, you’ll come to realize that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is more than a martial art, it’s a lifestyle.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a grappling-based martial art. The techniques generally involve taking an opponent to the ground in order to subdue and submit them.
BJJ uses simple concepts like leverage, momentum, and angles as well as a studious understanding of the limits of the human body to allow even smaller, weaker combatants to dominate and defeat large, strong opponents.
A scholar’s fighting style, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, requires study and practice to master. Sparring matches are often compared to chess matches, where the fighters battle on a mental level as much as a psychical one.
The core tenants of Jiu Jitsu are that through training and mental mastery, a fight can be won without great displays of strength.
Reasons to Do It
But why should you want to get involved with BJJ in the first place? Where’s the appeal in rolling around on the ground with a kid half your age?
There are quite a few reasons that older Jiu Jitsu players get involved in the sport. However, most of the reasons involve combating the kinds of problems many thirty-year-olds struggle with.
When you start to become older, it’s typical to find that you don’t have the body that you once had. Social lives often deteriorate around this age as living situations change, and interests fluctuate. BJJ can be a cure to these ails and others. Let’s discuss how.
Get in Shape
BJJ provides an incredible way to get in shape. As you go through the training, you’ll be moving your body in ways it’s never moved before. Jiu Jitsu requires the use of the entire body, burning away fat, and building lean, functional muscle.
Training will also give you a goal to focus on rather than simply working out for working outs sake. As you strive to improve your form and technique, your body will naturally sculpt into something capable of the task.
Going to the gym can be dull and stressful for those that aren’t already in love with bodybuilding. Jiu Jitsu is fun, exciting, and goal-oriented.
Many of those who started BJJ after the age of thirty, report weight drops of as big as fifty pounds within months of beginning training.
Even for those who may think they’re too big, too fat, or too out of shape to participate, BJJ can be an incredible way to see big improvements in a short amount of time.
Join an Incredible Community
A Jiu Jitsu school is a community. Many people describe the people in their local gym as “a team,” “a family,” or “a brotherhood.”
Entering the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a great way to meet a group of remarkable people. As you get to know the members of your local dojo, you’ll find mentors, partners, and friends.
You also might be surprised by how old many of the members are. It’s normal for people to expect a room full of fit high-schoolers and college students. But you may not be the only thirty plus person who found BJJ alluring.
Many schools have members in their thirties, their forties, or their fifties. You’re sure to find a mix of different ages and skill levels. There’s a place for you in your local BJJ gym.
There’s nothing that will really put a swagger in your step, like knowing you could drop 90% of the people you meet on a daily basis.
Getting comfortable with the style and the training will make you feel more comfortable and confident on the mat and will also likely bleed into other areas of your life.
As you get more fit, you’ll feel not only attractive and sexy but strong and powerful in a way that cardio and weight training just can’t provide. Your body will become more than just your outer shell, but a tool that you’ll know how to use better than ever.
Carlos Gracie, the founder of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, described the relationship between the body and the practitioners of Jiu Jitsu as “a sort of leveling process through which brute force, confronted and dominated by the wise application of rational mechanics, is led to admitting that the human being, usually taken as a body endowed with a soul, should actually be deemed a soul that happens to reside in a body.”
You’ll also become more disciplined. With disciplined training, you’ll gain the confidence to know that you can take on any challenge and persevere.
Confidence through BJJ is more than just having a body you’re proud of again. It’s wholistic. Feeling confident in you.
Your thirties can be a stressful period of your life. Often people at this age find that they don’t have any real outlet for releasing stress.
While all exercise is stress relieving, there’s something about grappling that can allow you to work out the frustrations of the day or week.
Rolling can be like using a giant stress ball that you have to squeeze with your entire body and squeezes back. You’ll find that after you’ve worked up a sweat, you’re feeling more relaxed and at ease than when you entered the gym.
Take up a Unique Hobby
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu isn’t the most common hobby out there. It can be fun to know you’re doing something unique and different.
Even if you aren’t very skilled on the mat, you’re sure to impress some people at your next dinner party when you tell them how you’ve been filling your Saturdays.
It can be so easy to fall into the rut of just using your free time to watch TV. Why not get off the couch and start a hobby which will make memories and make you feel a genuine sense of accomplishment?
Learn to Defend Yourself
At its core, BJJ is a martial art. The main purpose of the sport is to teach self-defense.
While there is an entire sport beyond the self-defense aspect, this is nevertheless a potentially life-saving skill. BJJ has been called “the best martial art.”
As you become adept at Jiu Jitsu, you’ll be able to take on almost any opponent.